Disability Sector – Union Budget 2016


Lesson for Disability Sector – Union Budget 2016

The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented his 3rd union budget on 29th February 2016. The disability sector is however dismayed to see the meager enhancement in the outlay proposed for the disabled people. The Department of the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities hereafter (DEPWD) has been allocated Rs 90 crore higher from the previous fiscal year which was Rs 610 crore. According to a report by the Deccan Herald, out of the 700 crore, provision of Rs 130 crore has been made for the Assistance to Disabled Persons for purchase or fitting aids and appliances, Rs 193 crore for a scheme relating to Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) and implementation of Persons with Disability Act. The allocation further includes Rs 113 crore for various National Institute for Disabled Persons.

Moreover, The Finance Minister announced to lift basic customs and excise duties on Braille paper – from 10% to a nought. The Economic Times reported that ‘a price reduction in Braille prints will help numerous specialized publication houses and institutes in the country’. These entities publish a huge number of reading material – across the languages for visually impaired people every year. The announcement of doing away with custum duty on Braille paper has been welcomed by the visually impaired people. They were however expecting the exemption from import duty levied on all assistive tools and hardwares including the Braille embosser.

The DEPWD was established by a government notification in the year 2012. It is a nodal department which looks after the disability affairs in the country. It will complete 4 years of its existence in May 2016. The cursory look at its short stint suggests that the department is far behind in achieving its ambitious objectives; Be it providing of Unique Identity Card to the disabled, Accessible Currency to the blind or setting up of Regional Sports Centres. Owing to the underfunding for the department, and shuffling of the officials at the short intervals have stalled well-intended projects. Such lackadaisical approach on the part of the government is a cause of great concern. The disability sector in India thus needs to reenvision and enhance the scope of their advocacy and lobbying strategies. Since the disability falls under the state subjects under the seventh Schedule of the Constitution, it is imperative for the disability rights advocates to look beyond Delhi.

As per the 2011 disability Census, the majority of disabled population – roughly 65 per cent reside in the faraway hamlets. Despite the two decades of the disability legislation in the country, state governments are yet to establish separate disability department and layout well-planned budgeting for the disabled people. The gravity of the issue could be gazed from the fact that the state such as Jammu & Kashmir is yet to establish the Office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities in the state. According to a report by The Tribune, The post of the CCPD was sanctioned as late as in the month of February 2016. In another development, The Rajasthan Patrika recently reported that the Uttar Pradesh government has refused to increase the pension amount for the disabled people in the garb of the article 41 of the Constitution which enjoins the state to undertake welfare measures for the disabled ‘within the economic capacity of the State’. Ironically, as the Indian Express reported on (March 7th 2016), the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) in its recent report has found huge anomalies in the implementation of social schemes in the Uttar Pradesh. The disability sector thus needs to bring paradigm shift in their ways of campaigning for achieving the respectable living standard for the disabled. The state governments if be made accountable could become the harbinger of change in the villages.

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